Kant On Moral Worth (Topic # 5) Essay Examples
Kant’s moral ideal stems from the possibility of a person working or taking moral pleasure in doing things because it is their duty to do so. According to him, emotions, sympathy and empathy do not matter, and that moral feelings do not determine the moral worth of a person. In fact, the moral worth can only be attributed to the action and the feelings that prompt the action. It is against this background that it is agreeable that, the moral worth of any action should be motivated by duty as well as a person’s feelings. I am convinced that a moral feeling is an indicator that a person is virtuous, and the moral worth of their actions can be gauged by looking at their feelings in order to determine the moral worth of their actions. When a person shows their virtuous side, they are showing their concern and their willingness to act according to the situation, and that is their duty to do so. It is true to say that the motive matters a lot especially when the act is performed out of goodwill.
A person can lack good will but then possess desirable qualities that enable them perform duties that benefit the society. A person might lack good will but possess qualities such as compassion, have sympathy and empathy towards others, and is willing to help others without necessarily helping because they are called to do so (Hill 22. But these qualities make these people even better off than those who lack them yet always act out of good will. Kant believes that such qualities can make a person pursue the goals that a person who has good will possess. It is against this background that one will argue that when one person has these qualities, and another possesses good will, they will achieve the same results through their actions, and that will amount to making their actions a moral worth. Even when lack of goodwill may not be considered a good thing for actions to qualify to be morally worth, the bottom line is that both will have achieved similar results.
The pillar upon which Kant bases his arguments lies in the will. The willingness of an agent to act and qualify their actions as morally worthy is what matters, in this case. The will to do something is what qualifies it to be morally right, yet again, the desire to do right because one feels it is the right thing to do is equally important. Sometimes it becomes very hard to draw a line between feelings and the willingness to act. In as much as what we see in the actions may be different from what one feels inside that does not mean that their actions do not qualify these actions as wrong. In order to determine the moral worth of an action, there are so many things to be looked into, not just the face value of the action. Of course, these actions can be associated with free will or good will, but then it is imperative to factor in the role played by emotions. A virtuous person may be ideal in the world created by Kant, but then virtue may never be duty (Hill 26). And so, it is imperative to rule out pure holiness as a blueprint for gauging whether people perform their moral duties going by their actions.
Many are the times when the inclinations of a person are in harmony with duty, meaning that, their feelings lead them to performing some acts. But there are times too, when a person lacks the feelings but try so much to act morally depending on the situation they find themselves. It is during such times when free will takes the day, and one is made to act because society expects them to do so, not because they wanted. But again, even when they do not feel like it, they act out of their volition because the situation demands (Shafer- Lendau 487). It is during such times, when one acts because it pleases him, but not because it benefits others. The motive in these situations matters a lot because at the end of the day, the acts will have been performed, and there are those they suit, and no one feels as if they have been hurt. As long as the action is performed out of good will, it has some moral worth.
There are times when Kant talks about opposing desires being a source of limitations towards a person performing their moral duty. A good example is when one acts because it pleases them or when one acts out of the maxim of self- love (Shafer Lendau 489). But again if an act is meant to make a person happy then it is the right thing to do because it seeks to please the one who is acting. In such situations, a person may act out of sympathy or benevolence because that makes them happy because they will have helped. There are people who derive happiness from helping others. It is the motive, and the feelings of that person that matter and they are the ones that make their acts morally worthy. It takes the feeling that it is a person’s duty to help, and that is what brings about the feelings of empathy and sympathy.
Kant indicates that opposing desires can sometimes hinder the fulfillment of a person’s duty (Shafer- Lendau 492). But again, he points out that those desires do not in any way require any moral worth. Also, he goes on to say that those desires do not make the actions more worthy. These desires are just an indicator that the person is willing to act because they make it their duty to act. As long as a person desires to do something worthwhile, they are showing that they are interested in giving a helping hand and that can be seen as a person acting because they also feel that it is their duty to do so. The inner-self is them manifested when a desire is translated into an act, which in return makes the act morally worth. All that matter is the fact that an action is seen, and that action is meant to help another person who is in need.
When an action is said to be of moral worth, the agent must have acted dutifully whether or not that person was inclined to act. The moral value of their actions can be appreciated in whichever way as long as they did the right thing. There are instances when a person is faced with a situation that leaves them with the option of not acting. At times, an individual can choose just to look away and ignore the call to act because neither the recipient nor the agent stands to lose or benefit anything (Hill 28). But just then the agent feels like taking up an action out of no reason at all. But then the willingness to act my come so naturally so much so that it is mistaken for a person’s inner feelings. As long as the rightness of the action is recognizable, the moral worth is seen because the act prompted the thought of having had the willingness to help. Kant allows the thought of a person acting out of their inner feelings while others do not necessarily have to show emotions as long as that they are doing comes out of the inclination to act.
It is good always to do the right thing even if it causes other people unhappiness. Out of a sense of duty, some people may want to act to help others, but it is not obvious that their acts will be appreciated. But the agent cannot be blamed because all they wanted to do was help, and their sense of good will is acceptable. Now the problem lies with the recipient and not the agent and the action itself, if the agent felt it was important for them to help, then their actions deserve moral worth, and the recipient has no power over it. Kant’s idea is that the action is morally right if it is acceptable by law because if it is not right to do some things, the agent may have never bothered to act that way (Shafer- Lendau 494). And if they were to act, they could have acted differently so as not to break the law.
Hill, Thomas E. The Blackwell Guide to Kant’s Ethics. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2009. Print
Shafer- Lendau, Russ. Ethical Theory: An Anthology. 2/e. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2013. Print